European

What does the fox say? Not much – it’s too busy eating at Foxlow

Copyright of Foxlow. Sourced from Foxlow website

Copyright of Foxlow. Sourced from Foxlow website

Cuisine: European

Address: 69-73 St John Street, EC1M 4AN

Area: Smithfield

Nearest Station: Farringdon

Tel.: 020 7014 8070

Website: http://foxlow.co.uk/

Pricing: High

Good For: Carnivorous eating, Umami, Friendly conversation, Smart-casual dining, Filling meal, Quality ingredients

Want to know what sort of texts I like to get?

“Dude, I’ve got a booking for Foxlow next Wednesday for 4. You in??”

This one came from my brother. As the booking also came during Foxlow’s soft opening, it also included a complimentary drink. I therefore do not hesitate to say: I love you man, you mah BRO (more specifically, my ADOBRO – cheeky plug for our Filipino supper club right there!!).

A smart but casual diner feel, with *gasp* matching furniture! Cheers to BarChick's website for the photo

A smart but casual diner feel, with *gasp* matching furniture! Cheers to BarChick’s website for the photo

Billed as the more casual sister restaurant to Hawksmoor, that esteemed temple of steaks, Foxlow’s offering of charcoal-grilled and slow-cooked meats automatically appeals to the carnivore inside of us all – hence all the excitement that I’ve seen bandied around online.

However, judging from the menu we were presented with that night, I would say that Foxlow is more an ode to all things umami – there are various ingredients in use there, like beef dripping, anchovies, meat stock, Gubbeen cheese, capers, kimchi and others, that suggest that those guys just want to make sure you get your savoury fix, whether it come in meat, vegetable or fish form.

And let me tell you – we chowed down and got our savouriness on. Guided by our helpful and chatty waitress, who tried to ensure that our order included all of the big-hitters from the menu (e.g. “I would say the monkfish is pretty nice and a must, but since you’re after meat, I wouldn’t bother”), we managed to get ourselves a good spread.

Anchovies on goat's butter crisps. NOM

Anchovies on goat’s butter crisps. NOM

First to come along were the anchovy and goat’s butter crisps. This consisted of a very thin crisp wafer flavoured with goat’s butter, topped with freshly chopped shallots and a piece of anchovy. Our waitress stressed the quality of the anchovy, with the chefs aspiring to provide a healthy balance of salt and fresh fish flavours; once you pop one of these into your mouth, you can see what she means. It was packed so full of flavour and savouriness, you were left craving for more, in spite of how rich they were.

Brixham crab with devilled mayonnaise. Get some crabs!

Brixham crab with devilled mayonnaise. Get some crabs!

Then came our starters, which we dished out amongst the four of us: Crispy Five Pepper squid, Brixham crab with devilled mayonnaise, Baby back Iberico ribs and Smokehouse rillettes. The squid had a hint of smokiness to it, but otherwise I felt them to be rather unremarkable. Good – not greasy, not salty, suitably tasty – but unremarkable. As for the Brixham crab, it was served shredded on green leaves, which I felt made it a bit more difficult to appreciate it fully. Still, it was refreshing and beautifully flavoured, with the devilled mayonnaise adding interesting but not overpowering bite. The ribs, as expected, were very tender and full of barbecue flavour. The smokehouse rillettes, on the other hand, were not as smoky as suggested by the name, but were brilliant in texture and taste. The winning starter, I felt.

Baby back Iberico ribs. Not going to quote Fat Bastard for this one

Baby back Iberico ribs. Not going to quote Fat Bastard for this one

So far, so good. By this point, we’d finished our complimentary drinks (my Tom Ford – a twist on the Tom Collins with gin, Benedictine, lemon and soda – was well-received for its light and herbal touch) and I made a move for the wine, selecting a very smooth and medium-bodied rioja crianza from the decently-sized wine list.

I’d originally earmarked the Ten-hour beef shortrib with kimchi for myself, but seeing as two of the group were also going to order it, I made the adventurous choice and went with the charcoal-grilled Iberico pork ‘pluma’. As our waitress explained, pluma is a type of cut from the loin, and given where it comes from in the pig and the quality of the meat itself, it can be served medium. And oh man was it tasty. It was tender, had a brilliant charcoaled crust to it and just packed an absolute savoury punch, almost akin to a well-flavoured steak. I have never had a cut of pork loin that tasted like this, and the next time I find myself in Foxlow I will definitely order it again.

Iberico pork pluma, in all its glory as captured by my brilliant smartphone

Iberico pork pluma, in all its glory as captured by my brilliant smartphone

The other dishes, in comparison, fell by the wayside. It feels bad to denigrate the other meats on offer, but this is more a tribute to the surprising delights of the Iberico pork pluma than a comment on any form of substandard quality on the parts of the other dishes. The beef was amazingly tender and was also beautifully-flavoured, but after the pluma it tasted rather pedestrian – it was like “Yeah, I’ve had shortrib before, so what?” The Eight-hour bacon rib with maple chilli also suffered a similar fate: again, slow-cooking it for that long produced meat that you could cut like you had a hot knife going through butter, and the flavours of maple and chilli produced something rather special – but hey, bacon rib tastes of bacon and we all know what that is like, right?

Ten-hour beef shortrib with kimchi. One of these things does not belong...

Ten-hour beef shortrib with kimchi. One of these things does not belong…

Before I do any more disservice to the other mains, let’s talk about the sides that we shared. The Beef-dripping potatoes with Gubbeen and capers provided us with very crispy and more-ish potatoes that were a very good accompaniment to our meals; the Broccoli with chilli and anchovy were crisp very well-appreciated, although the chilli was almost undistinguishable beneath the savouriness of the anchovy; the Sausage-stuffed onion was a slightly-caramelised onion in a thick and tasty gravy filled with substantial and nicely seasoned sausage meat – a good combination, but as a side dish it seemed rather overbearing, with the sausage meat competing too much against the main courses.

That rather unappetising lump in the foreground is a sausage-stuffed onion, whilst those are potatoes behind. Not that you can tell

That rather unappetising lump in the foreground is a sausage-stuffed onion, whilst those are potatoes behind. Not that you can tell

So, you’d think that by now we’d be done, right? Think again. Dessert was dangled in front of us, and we just had to take a bite. My Peanutella & Sweet Toast was a crushing blow to any semblance of healthiness I retained: here we had a Nutella jar filled with layers of, er, Nutella, caramel, peanut butter and peanuts, served with lightly-fried sweetened toast batons and – in case you thought Foxlow forgot the savouriness – a sprinkling of sea salt. It was perhaps a bit overwhelming, but in some instances that’s okay. Such as when you are chowing down with your bros, homes.

The photo is so dark because the evilness of this Peanutella and Sweet Toast sucked the light into it

The photo is so dark because the evilness of this Peanutella and Sweet Toast sucked the light into it

And thus our meal was complete. It provided enough sustenance to last us for a leisurely walk down to St Paul’s, across the Millennium Bridge and all the way to London Bridge (one of us is still new to London *cough* tourist *cough*) – and you know what? I’d happily walk that distance again just for a bit more of that Iberico pork pluma. Mmmmmm.

VERDICT – A good place. The dishes we chose were all good and decent, but there were certain highlights that really wowed, like the Iberico pork pluma – and unfortunately that did rather unceremoniously shove the other meats into the shade. But we can overlook that, for Foxlow was a very friendly and cheery place for us, and that’s already a very big plus for the place. Oh, and did I say that I liked the Iberico pork pluma?

Currently listening to: Fun. – At Least I’m Not as Sad (As I Used to be)

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I’ve got 99 problems… and No. 178 New Cross Road ain’t one of them

Cuisine: European

Address: 178 New Cross Road, SE14 5AA

Area: New Cross

Nearest Station: New Cross Gate

Tel.: 020 7998 6922

Website: https://www.facebook.com/no178newcross

Pricing: Cheap-Medium

Good For: Loitering over drinks, Community feel, Friendly conversation, Comfort food

New Cross is quite a cool place. There, I said it, and no, I’m not ashamed to have said it. Yes yes, there may be some locational bias, but let’s look at it a bit more, er, objectively: New Cross is a real mix and when combined with Deptford and Brockley (and its fast links to London Bridge, the City and Canary Wharf), you can pretty much get whatever you want – hip cafés, chilled local pubs, interesting and cheap produce, ethnic foods, great and affordable restaurants, greasy spoons, fried chicken shops, farmers’ markets… it’s all catered for.

Throwing itself into the mix and doing its part to big up the local scene is No. 178 New Cross Road. “Oh no, not another pretentious café”, you might say. Not quite: it’s run by a social enterprise, Toucan Employment, which helps people with learning difficulties with work and training, so you could say that it’s plugged into the local community and doing its part to better the surrounding area. A very worthy idea, no?

This all happened very much under the radar for me, as No. 178 is at the far end of New Cross to me and not in an area I frequent often (Post Office sorting centre aside). I can’t even remember the shop it replaced, but whatever it was is a long-distant memory, for No. 178 have done an excellent job in transforming that space to meet their needs. It’s big and roomy, with a great sense of airiness and light. It is a surprisingly large lot, deceptively so from the outside, where you’re presented with a low but clean-cut shop front. Interior decorations and furnishings are de rigueur for local cafés: mismatched furniture, interesting bric-à-brac of a parochial nature on the walls, some art from local artists etc. (at this point, you should start counting how many times I use the word ‘local’ in this review).

Spacious interiors at No. 178 - courtesy of No. 178's Facebook page

Spacious interiors at No. 178 – courtesy of No. 178’s Facebook page

When my brother and I came to visit, we perched ourselves at the end of one of their bigger tables, below a chalkboard with a very helpful roadmap of hunger and thirst and what to do about them on it. Whilst it was not the full and complete menu, it did highlight what are presumably some classics such as the English Breakfast Pizza.

The roadmap to happiness - courtesy of No. 178's Facebook page

The roadmap to happiness – courtesy of No. 178’s Facebook page

Sounds pretty sacrilegious, no? Rather, you should be thinking, “Sacrilicious!” A nice runny egg, generous portions of bacon, sausage and mushrooms on a thin and crunchy base – screw what the Italians would think (though I hasten to add that I did once see a ‘McDonald’s Pizza’ on offer in a small pizzeria in Venice… it had French fries on it), it is tasty. It is meaty enough and cheesy enough to satisfy that search for savouriness, and the crust fulfils that need for crunchy and substantial texture. It was certainly a worthy cure for a hangover – not that mine was particularly potent that day.

Breakfast on a pizza - genius idea

Breakfast on a pizza – genius idea

My brother’s American Breakfast of pancakes, bacon and maple syrup was also well-received: the fluffy pancakes and crisp bacon ended up being rather filling, despite being a deceptively-small portion at a very low price.

To wash both of our brunches down and perk us up a bit, we both had a flat white. Now, I don’t pertain to be a coffee expert and although my brother knows more he is not quite there yet, we both appreciated the flat whites that No.178 served.

So, whilst the food has been good at No.178, one thing I would say that they have to keep an eye on is their service. It can seem a bit slow at times, even when the place does not seem that full. Even though this was not a problem the last time I was there (I was able to have a really pleasant chat with the girl behind the counter as I awaited my takeaway flat white), they should be careful not to let it become habit.

But hey, No. 178 is still young. I expect their staff will, in time, get to grips with things and grow into their roles. It is a great opportunity being afforded to them by Toucan – let’s hope that No. 178 makes the most of it.

VERDICT – A good place. There’s enough character and interesting offerings to make me want to come back to this new addition to the New Cross scene (15-minute walk aside). With a quality breakfast selection and decent coffee at very affordable prices, I hope that No. 178 can really make its mark on the area and become an established part of the community. Going by what I’ve seen so far, I think it’ll do just fine.

Currently listening to: Type O Negative – The Profits of Doom

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A quiet corner in bustling Deptford: Coffee and treats at Deli X

Copyright of Deli X. Sourced from Deli X website

Copyright of Deli X. Sourced from Deli X website

Cuisine: European

Address: 156 Deptford High Street, SE8 3PQ

Area: Deptford

Nearest Station: Deptford/Deptford Bridge

Tel. No.: 020 8691 3377

Website: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Deli-X/249955361716103

Pricing: Cheap-Medium

Good For: Loitering over drinks, Sinful snacks, Community feeling

Having only just become a ‘proper’ Londoner (i.e. not just a weekday commuter/weekend playboy) within the last year, I thought it best to set down some roots and really explore the multifarious wonders of Southeast London.

And so, one sunny Saturday afternoon in April 2012, I decided to explore Deptford Market. I spent a fruitful hour exploring amongst the stalls, the fishmongers, the butchers, the greengrocers, the Chinese and Vietnamese stores, the flea market on Douglas Way, the Albany Theatre… and came away with a bag full of veggies, some Chinese ingredients, a nicely-weighted cleaver, a cafetière and an idea that yes, Deptford Market was actually a pretty cool thing to have around.

Well, I decided to head further north along Deptford High Street to explore what else lay beyond the railway bridge. I chanced upon the cheerfully-coloured Deli X and popped in, attracted by the deli displays of fresh fruit and vegetables and tempting cheeses.

The deli itself is small but well-laid out, and is rich with an eclectic theme. Having noticed that I looked a bit lost amongst the vegetables, one of the owners came over and offered to help. Friendly as ever, she managed to steer my attention to the coffees and cakes they had on offer. Clever girl she was, doing that. It wasn’t long before I relented to a Portuguese egg tart and a coffee, after which she sent me over to the dining area, a charming place filled with couches, mismatched tables and chairs.

Carrying on with the eclectic and mismatched theme, my coffee arrived in a bowl that perched precariously on an under-sized saucer. Funky, but risky – the girls here must have the balancing and hand skills of, I don’t know, a circus juggler.

I’m not a coffee aficionado, but I think I know enough to pick out bad coffee – this most definitely did not fit that bill. And as for that first egg tart, it was creamy and very more-ish; although they admitted that they didn’t make them themselves, they were going to give them a shot. I wish them the best in this endeavour

Since that first visit, I’ve also had the pleasure of having their almond croissants, which are a real guilty pleasure of mine and, I feel a good way of measuring up different places that sell them. Deli X’s almond croissants are rather sinful, with a generous filling of smooth and rich almond paste nestled amongst light, flaky and buttery pastry. The croissants occasionally have a bit too much powdered sugar on it, but other than that they make for a great afternoon snack.

All in all, it looks like a place you could linger in for an hour (as I have done on a few occasions, mainly after job interviews), reading one of the books that they have on their shelves, talking to the owners – or, as I did on a recent visit, you can admire the art they hang on the walls. Superhero art this time around – I was invited along to a private viewing the next night, so as to meet the artist and perhaps purchase a piece to adorn mine and my brother’s place. Unfortunately I already had something planned, but I appreciated the gesture.

VERDICT – A good place. I always enjoy warm welcomes, and they are in abundance in Deli X. When coupled with a feel that is relaxed, spacious and comfortable in its uniqueness, I think that Deli X is on to something here.

Currently listening to: Hexes – Lipgloss Ghosts

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The Dark Ages weren’t so dark after all: Chicken Kiev and other comfort foods at West End Kitchen

Copyright of West End Kitchen. Sourced from West End Kitchen website

Copyright of West End Kitchen. Sourced from West End Kitchen website

Cuisine: European

Address: 5 Panton Street, SW1Y 4DL

Area: Leicester Square

Nearest Stations: Piccadilly Circus/Leicester Square

Tel. No.: 020 7839 4241

Website: http://www.westendkitchen.co.uk/

Good For: Filling meal, Cheap and cheerful, Quiet meal

It is interesting to see that Chicken Kiev is making a ‘come back’ in London, according to the Evening Standard. Firstly, I am glad: Chicken Kiev was always a favourite school supper of mine, as it combines so many good things – breading, juicy chicken breast, butter and garlic – even if the execution back then was not always top-notch. Secondly, I am somewhat bemused that this dish has supposedly been absent from the West End since the 1970s. Granted, ‘sophisticated’ (as the Evening Standard names them) restaurants may not have been serving it, but I’ve been getting my Chicken Kiev fix for some time now in the West End. Gosh darn it am I being smug.

Welcome to the West End Kitchen on Panton Street.

It’s a small diner tucked away between Leicester Square and Haymarket, and has apparently been serving well-priced comfort food for many, many years now. I stumbled across it with my ex a few years back, when we’d just been to see a film; wet from the rain and desperately hungry, we couldn’t muster the effort to trudge to Chinatown and so we ducked into one of the few open doorways on Panton Street in order to dry off a bit and see what the menu had on offer.

That first time, I had the rather butch Pique a lo Macho (fried beef, chips, egg, sausage, onion, olives, pepper and cheese) that turned out to be a veritable macho mountain of hot and fulfilling food that would have overwhelmed lesser men. That and the friendly and irreverent service was enough to charm us back. Any time we were hungry and in the area, we would pop into the West End Kitchen.

Chicken Kiev at the West End Kitchen - yummy yummy I've got love in my tummy

Chicken Kiev at the West End Kitchen – yummy yummy I’ve got love in my tummy

And it is through these repeated visits that I came to appreciate their Chicken Kiev. It is a well-made dish: succulent chicken breast wrapped around creamy and rich garlic butter and encased in wonderfully crispy breading. It comes with standard boiled vegetables and new potatoes on a bed of adequately done rice, all of which are nothing that special when compared to the spinach and chicken jus of Primo, but then again you can have a very decent meal here for under £10.

And when you’re hungry and in need of some comfort food, do you really need anything more?

VERDICT – A good place. It’s a nice go-to place for a decent feed and you will always find a welcoming booth. And, now that Chicken Kievs are chic again, why wouldn’t want to be flocking down to the West End Kitchen?

Currently listening to: Horrorpops – Freaks in Uniform

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